Worship of Lord Brahma, Part 100



Pashupatinath Temple - Deopatan, Nepal

A serial exploration of places of Lord Brahma's worship.


Lord Brahma in Nepal

With tonight's segment on the places of Lord Brahma's worship in India, we are leaving Mother Bharat, having concluded to the best of our ability this survey of Brahmadeva's temples in India. In the final few chapters we will offer a brief summary of Lord Brahma's worship in other Southeast Asian countries. We begin tonight in the far Himalayan north of Nepal, whose first divine ruler was King Manu.

Nepal stretches along much of the northeastern edge of India, bordering Uttarakhand to the west, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to the south, Sikkim to the east, and China to the north. Kathmandu, Nepal's capital city, is also the country's spiritual center, and a unique blend of Vaisnava and Buddhist worship is found here. In previous editions of the Sun, we have presented some of the beautiful Nrsimhadeva shrines in Nepal. Not surprisingly, the worship of Lord Brahma also goes on here, as it undoubtedly has for millennia, although to a far lesser degree than Visnu or Nrsimha worship.



Lord Brahma, Gokarna Mahadev Temple, Kathmandu

Pashupatinath Temple is one of the most famous in Kathmandu. Located 3 km. northeast of the city center, in a village known as Deopatan, this temple was originally built in 879 A.D. and dedicated to Lord Shiva. It was rebuilt in 1697 by King Bhupatindra Malla. The temple is a beautiful structure, with a gold-plated roof, silver doors, and fine wood carvings. Lord Shiva is here in linga form. Only four priests, who are appointed by the King, are permitted to touch the lingam. These priests are always from South India, a tradition said to have been established by Adi Shankaracarya in the 6th century.

The Pashupatinath complex is quite extensive, with many smaller temples bordering it. On its northern side is a 9th-century Brahma temple, and there are various other deities and murtis of Lord Brahma nearby, including a Catur-mukha, or four-faced deity.

Vaisnava Temple near Pashupatinath

To the south of Pashupatinath is the Dharmashila, a stone shrine where devotees come to make sacred oaths to the Lord. Also in the south is the Chadeshvar temple, in which resides a Licchavi linga from the 7th century. A 6th century Buddhist temple also borders Pashupatinath, along with the Guheswari Temple, restored in A.D. 1653, which represents Shakti. It is dedicated to Shiva's wife, Sati Devi.

Not only in Kathmandu but elsewhere in Nepal, a few rare and beautiful deity forms of Lord Brahma have been discovered. Some are pictured here, although little is known about their original abodes. Several are now in 'protective custody', and are not receiving worship. Just as in India, the worship of Brahma in Nepal never fructified into a prominent cult. As noted in a previous Sun feature article, "The History of Stone Art in Nepal", few images of Brahma are found there.

 Lord Brahma, Chapagaon, Nepal

The Brahma deity from Chapagaon, Nepal is dated to the 6th century, from the Licchavi period. The style of the heads is similar to the Kusana style of sculpture. Two of the other most important Brahma deities from Nepal, the Deopatan and Mrigasthali deities, are significantly different in form and mood. The Deopatan Brahma was carved fully in the round, and was likely installed so that the devotees could circumambulate it. Brahma sits atop a lotus, his faces to the cardinal directions.

The Chapagaon deity is thought to predate the Deopatan and Mrigasthali forms. Of the three, the Mrigasthali deity is the most elaborate. Here Brahma is four-armed, whereas the other two deities are two-armed. Mrigasthali Brahma holds the mala, lota, and Vedas, and the fourth hand, which is damaged, was likely in mudra. The sacred thread and an antelope skin are thrown across his shoulder.

 Lord Brahma, Deopatan

While the Mrigasthali Brahma also sits on a lotus, in this instance the sculptor has carved out a 'cave' behind Brahmadeva, with wavy crests. On his right are two bearded, emaciated sages who we assume have been performing austerities, perhaps in search of a boon from Brahma. This scene is likely their Himalayan hermitage. Each sage holds a lota and gazes worshipfully at Lord Brahma. This image is said to be very similar to a sculpture that once existed at the Huccimalligudi Temple at Aihole. These two sages are the only two of their kind found in Nepal, aside from an image of Markandeya found in repoussé on a manuscript cover.

Lord Brahma, Mrigasthali

As will become evident in the next few segments, the worship of Lord Brahma was carried by just such sages as these to the north and east of India, influencing devotional practices throughout the Southeast Asian countries. Nepal was undoubtedly a channel for many such travelers, some of who are well known to have carried Brahmadeva's influence north into China, and southeast to Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Indonesia.

While most of the Brahmadeva images found in Nepal are done in the Vaisnava style, as we see in the image below, a manuscript cover from Bhaktapur, Nepal, circa 1549, there is also a pronounced Buddhist influence in some renditions of Brahma. As the reader will discover tomorrow, this is indicative of the transition of Brahma from India, through Nepal, and into China. There, Lord Brahma appears in many pastime scenes, side by side with Lord Buddha and Indra.

Bhaktapur Manuscript – Durga Ma slaying demon